Louis Portnoy vividly remembers visits with Gayle Harte. The good family friend brought treats from her Royal Oak, Michigan, business, Gayle’s Chocolates, for him and his family.
“Every time she would come out here, she would bring chocolate,” Portnoy says. “We loved her chocolate.”
When it came time to retire, Harte did what many do—she moved to Arizona, Sedona, specifically. She sold her business to Portnoy and his parents, Michael and Andrea.
Harte is a legendary Michigander. She founded the chocolates business in 1979 in her Huntington Woods, Michigan, kitchen, and moved it to nearby Downtown Royal Oak in 1985. Thirty-four years later, she retired.
Before he secured his storefront, Portnoy worked out of Cottonwood Elementary School.
“We were using their kitchen for about 10 months,” Portnoy says. “That’s a pain because chocolate is really temperamental with the temperature. They were using a swamp cooler over there for air conditioning. I’d make a mold and then keep my fingers crossed about if it’s going to work out or not.”
There were times when Portnoy poured 15 chocolate bars and two or three would come out correctly.
“We were doing these Fabergé eggs and we came in the next day and something happened to the air conditioning, and all the eggs were ruined,” he says.
Now that the Portnoys have a proper building and kitchen, they find the truffles and clusters are popular treats.
“My favorite item is the clusters,” Portnoy says. “It’s like a turtle. I love caramel. It’s really simple. She has a great caramel recipe, though, but I honestly like everything we make. I like peanut butter and the peanut butter cups are really good, too.”
The family created its signature candy, the Sedona-inspired Vortex Crunch. Crispy rice cereal, dried Michigan cherries, almonds, cashews, toffee, glazed orange peel and toasted coconut are drizzled with a layer of semisweet milk chocolate.
Besides the aforementioned candies, Gayle’s offers classic chocolates, candy bars, gift tins/boxes, seasonal chocolates, specialty shapes, celebration chocolates and business gifts. The chocolate flavors available include milk, white, dark, milk toffee, milk almond, milk cherry pecan, dark almond, dark peppermint crunch, dark orange almond and dark coffee toffee chocolate.
Just like Willy Wonka, guests can walk in Gayle’s Chocolates and witness chocolates being made through large glass windows.
Everything at Gayle’s is made and packaged by hand. Gayle’s makes specialty chocolates for holidays and events including birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, Mother’s and Father’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter.
“I was the production manager in Michigan and moved to Arizona when Gayle’s was sold to the Portnoys,” says general manager Colleen Corson. “I oversee the production to ensure the same quality and taste for all our loyal and new chocolate lovers.”
Products can be shipped online or via the shipping kiosk at Gayle’s Chocolates’ store. To ensure flawless delivery, the chocolates are shipped in insulated boxes at no extra charge. During extreme warm weather chocolates will be shipped next day air unless destination falls into one-day ground with ice packs.
“I love having this business,” Portnoy says. “It was meant to be.”
541 N. Main Street, Cottonwood, 1.888.761.COCO, gayleschocolates.com.